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Every year, more than 30 million Americans leave the comfort of their homes to sleep in a tent, RV or simply under the stars. There are lots of reasons to rough it on a good-old fashioned camping trip, from physical health benefits to stress relief. Follow this guide below to fully enjoy the great outdoors.

 

Pick a place:

The first step along the path to becoming a happy camper is to decide where to pitch that tent. Review the campgrounds in the area to find out what amenities are provided; most sites have grills, and some have showers and even wifi. Remember to call ahead and reserve a spot, especially for the weekend.

 

Gear up:

Figure out what to bring based on how much room you have and how long you’ll be gone. If hiking to the campsite, be mindful about weight and bulk.

 

Sleep well:

Don’t forget the tent, sleeping bag and pillow. Choose your tent based on how many people are coming with, and be sure to check if it’s weather resistant.

 

Fire up:

Bring along some charcoal (for campsite grills), fire starters, wood, newspaper, matches, propane stove, skillet, pot, utensils and cups/bowls/plates. Always check to see if the site allows campfires. Keep sand and water nearby in case the fire needs to be put out quickly.

 

Chow down:

Food options include granola bars, peanut butter, beef jerky, canned beans and soup, trail mix, drink powders and coffee or tea. They won’t spoil, and don’t require any cooking.

 

Dress for success:

Cotton is not your friend in the woods. Instead, choose moisture-wicking clothes and synthetic or wool socks to keep dry and sweat-free. Don’t forget to pack rain gear, a sun hat, hiking boots and a swimsuit.

 

Grab the gadgets:

No, not video games. Having a flashlight (or headlamp or lantern), extra batteries, a multi-tool and phone charger (for emergencies) all make camping much safer and easier.

dad-and-kids-camping

Keep clean:

Obviously you’re going to get dirty in the woods, but you will want to bring soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and toilet paper. Use baby wipes to get rid of dirt, carry hand sanitizer and bring garbage bags to separate clean and dirty clothes.

 

Stay safe:

Safety is no joke. Bring along a well-stocked first-aid kit, creams for blisters and insect bites, sunscreen and any other personal medications.

 

Add some extras:

Bring a set of binoculars, maps, books, folding chair, cooler and chapstick to make your trip in the woods more enjoyable.

 

Set up camp:

Once at the campsite, find level ground to pitch the tent. Set it up (some extra hands will help!) and make sure to use a tent cover in case of rain. Pick a place that’s close enough to running water for easy access when you’re ready to clean the dishes, shower and fill up the water bottles.

 

Stay safe in the sun:

Slather on the sunscreen, and wear a hat and sunglasses to keep the sun out. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, too.

 

Avoid ticks:

Wear high socks, use repellent and avoid high grass to keep ticks away. If a tick attacks, carefully pull it out with tweezers, making sure not to squeeze or crush the bug.

 

Break it down:

Most importantly, leave the campsite as you found it! Throw away any trash around your site (that might mean bringing it home with you), make sure the fire is out, and pack your gear into a backpack, trunk or RV.

 

Play it safe:

Following the tips listed above should make any camping experience smooth sailing, but remember that it’s best to camp with others so someone can always call for help in an emergency. With common sense, the right equipment and a positive attitude, Mother Nature will quickly become your second home. Now you’re all set to become a happy camper.